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CLEARWATER — Clearwater Central Catholic’s Seth Paitsel carries himself with a quiet confidence. The catcher went 0-for-3 in his last outing against Berkeley Prep and wanted to make amends against rival Tampa Catholic on Thursday night.
Down 8-7 in the bottom of the seventh inning with a runner on first, Paitsel did the unthinkable.
“I wanted to get it in the gap like I normally do and I got it up in the air and I was hoping I got it out,” Paitsel said.
There was no questioning the ball went out.
For the second game in a row CCC came back, defeating Tampa Catholic 9-8 on Paitsel’s walk-off bomb to leftfield, securing its second consecutive Class 3A, District 10 title.
The Marauders started slowly, pulling starting pitcher Charlie Lamar after 41/3 innings. He allowed two runs in the first and one in the second.
Tampa Catholic’s JC Prado lined a two-run single to centerfield, extending the Crusaders’ lead to 5-2 through three. They crossed home plate once more in the fourth.
“When we were down by four, I told them we have to keep chipping away,” CCC coach Todd Vaughan said. “We can still win in the seventh.”
Down 8-3 in the bottom of the sixth, Benny Mendizabal drove Paitsel home from third. With two on and two out, Steven Arango took a 3-1 pitch from reliever Keith Garcia and crushed it for a three-run home run.
“I’ve never hit a home run and it was pretty awesome,” said Arango who finished 2-for-3 with a walk.
CCC’s David Slattery pitched a scoreless seventh, allowing Paitsel his shining moment.
“These kids are great. They just keep fighting and fighting,” said Vaughan. “They believe in themselves and they don’t get down.”